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Jeffersonville, Ind. Expanding NoCo Arts And Cultural District

The Depot will be an "artists' village" in the district that hosts concerts and food trucks.
Courtesy of City of Jeffersonville
The Depot will be an "artists' village" in the district that hosts concerts and food trucks.

Jeffersonville, Ind. is again expanding its recreational offerings along the Spring Street Corridor, this time with additions to the NoCo Jeffersonville Arts & Cultural District.

Six years ago, the city caught lightning in a bottle with the opening of Big Four Station Park. The walking bridge – which uses the span of the former “bridge to nowhere” – and surrounding green space set off a development explosion in downtown Jeffersonville.

“When they come over into the downtown area, there's not a single block within four blocks of the Big Four bridge where there's not something going on in the evening,” Mayor Mike Moore said. “That's fun.”

Shops and restaurants in the area have flourished as more than a million people from all over the world cross the bridge into the city’s core each year. City officials continued their focus on pedestrian-friendly design a few blocks away at the NoCo Arts District.

Jeffersonville Public Arts Administrator Dawn Spyker said the district, which has rough boundaries of Michigan and Court avenues and Spring Street, is in its second year of operation.

“It's only 22 acres, so it's rather intimate,” she said. “However, the intention with this district is that you've got lots of different opportunities for artists and visitors and community.”

Officials are set to move forward with at least three projects by the end of this year that will transform the landscape at the arts district.

The project with the most buzz is the Depot. The name is an homage to the train era of Jeffersonville’s Big Four Bridge, and the space will incorporate old, colorful train cars in its design.

“It's basically going to become a little artist village,” Moore said. “Those storage containers are going to be a place where artists have space rented out and have all of their artwork on display. We’re going to have a little outdoor concert venue there, and we’re going to have a little bar there.”

Spyker said that the artists who use the pods on any given day will specialize in a variety of media. This is to ensure that the offerings are unique for the potential customers and passersby.

“A desire of the redevelopment commission and the city is to have a variety of artists represented, and not necessarily your traditional visual artists, either,” Spyker said. “It could be culinary artists, people who are making specialty foods. Or people that are working in anything that is a specialty product, not necessarily something that is mass produced, but something that is made by hand for sure.”

Near the colorful water tank at the district’s hub, one can find two lengthy walls covered in vibrant murals. Spryker refers to this area of the district as “the Garden.”

Here, artists will sell their work at pop-up markets.

“It should provide a real enchanting and magical backdrop for this artists’ market,” Spyker said. “So that particular area is really intended for emerging artists.”

A third component will be a storytelling area for younger people. A colorful sidewalk leads up to the water tower, known as the story trail. Participants are meant to walk along the trail to tell a story. There are 12 panels along the trail, each offering a different section of the story.

There will also be components to engage discussion about the story, such as questions about the story written on surrounding walls. Storytellers and parents will also join children on the trail. A colorful barrier made of PVC pipe will be used to separate children from the street in the storytelling area.

All of these components at NoCo, Moore said, give the city something special, unlike offerings in other cities. While Indiana is stereotypically associated with occupations like farming and pastimes like basketball, Moore wants to change that.

“We want to be unique,” he said. We don't want to be just an Indiana city that concentrates on basketball. I want to give the kid who doesn't have any interest in athletics, but has this creativity, this art kind of idea. I want them to know they've got a place in Jeffersonville.”

Moore said the Depot is “coming along nicely,” and expects it to wrap up by the end of the year. He hopes to have concerts there by next spring.

Spyker said markets could start up next year, as well.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.